Review: iaf2016 / Imbalanced City of Sachin George Sebastian in the India Art Fair 2016/JohnyML
Artist Sachin George Sebastian snips a few bits off his usual paper art works to present something refreshingly new..reports JohnyML at the India Art Fair 2016..
The eighth edition of the India Art Fair (2016) had a few firsts of its kind; of which the most important was the reduction in size of both egos and works of art. Some artists took off from their usual modes and came up with refreshing expressions and definitely that impressed people to a great extent. Sachin George Sebastian’s name has been attached to the intricate structures that represent urban explosion of life and things, using paper (fashioned by a pair of scissors) as his predominant medium. This time he surprised the India Art Fair visitors with his eye fooling cube structure using digital images, stretched canvases on mount board and painterly techniques. Titled ‘Constructed Conversations’ this semi-relief work is like an intricate jaali from the Mughal period, and is a part of the sponsored projects of the IAF and is presented by the Delhi based ‘Exhibit 320’.
From a distance ‘Constructed Conversations’ look like a rectangular ‘cube’ jutting out of the wall. Different locations from which the work is viewed present a different perspective of the work. Though it looks like the lattice work on a traditional jaali, a deeper look reveals that there is a fair amount of asymmetry, carefully created by the artist. The constant dislocating feeling makes the viewer find a more comfortable location to view the work. The more one goes closer the more one loses perspective and finds only pixellations and the more one moves away from the work, the more one gets a ‘visual idea’ about the work. But the work fools the viewer and also escapes the grip of their comprehension by throwing a new challenge. The visual fullness is not the meaning of this work. Neither does the intricate detail prove the ‘thingness of the work’. Then what exactly is it?
Sachin George Sebastian, a NID graduate who is a paper artist, graphic designer and ‘constructivist’ of sort, smiles at that question. According to him, ‘constructed conversation’ is the truth of our times. Nothing is natural; everything is consciously constructed. Right from the personal image (self image of a person as seen in selfies) to the images that one forms about the surroundings, everything is constructed with a particular aim to generate a desired meaning. Perhaps, in Sachin’s work, he goes against the grain of time. He just wants to point out that this is the truth of our times; the desire to make meaning out of constructed realities. In fact, his work does not give away any particular meaning. The very act of making such a ‘construction’ itself is a meaning for the artist.
One could see history converging with the contemporary times in this work of Sachin George Sebastian as the apparent Mughal (traditional) architectural feel is dominant with the images, absolutely abstracted but as we are visually tuned to the technological innovations of our times, they look like google maps seen in our GPS systems. “But it is not google map,” Sachin says with a gentle smile. He has done some small acts of rebellion by photographing Delhi’s cityscape from a flight while it was making a landing at the Delhi airport. This photograph constitutes the basis of the image in this work. This unclear image is replicated a hundred times using digital multiplication (photoshop) and employed to cover the entire surface of the work giving it a floral pattern. It is almost like the manufactured crowd in a political rally using photoshop as a tool to replicate the same photograph. Not only consent is manufactured but reality could also be manufactured in that way.
This could have been on the straight stretched canvas on mount board. But Sachin cuts them into pieces to give a feel of the arches of an architectural structure. But he never repeats one pattern of cut anywhere else in the work so that the work looks indefinitely unfinished though the totality gives a very perfect illusionary cube jutting out of the wall. Sachin perhaps is telling us about the cities as ‘work in progress’. The asymmetry does not give a feeling of imbalance. On the contrary the very asymmetry adds a sort of ‘balance’ to the work. May be that’s how the cities function today; they are imbalanced by class, caste, religion, gender, economics and so on so forth but yet they look balanced in everything. This is a false take of/on reality when it comes to the city governance. But that’s how cities are ‘balanced’. If there are no disparities how can a city ever be a city? This is the truth that an intelligent viewer takes away from the work of Sachin George Sebastian.
Why Sachin left paper cutting? He says that a visit to Switzerland for a short term residency was in a way refreshing for him. “My views changed when I was in Zurich. It is not that I have left paper completely. But I think there is a need to talk about the reality using different means,” observes Sachin. Let’s wish him all the best.